Wardrobe Preparation: the interview

by Dan Trout, medical librarian at Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester Medical Center.

Wardrobe Preparation: the interview

dan troutDress for the position that you want, not for the position that you have. I’ve worn a suit and tie to every interview that I’ve attended. You can always gauge the atmosphere and culture of an organization during the interview and after you are hired, but you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression (Thanks advertising and Head and Shoulders).

I would recommend dressing in a suit for all interviews unless expressly told so. If you are overdressed and it makes you uncomfortable, it is very easy to take off your tie and your jacket to dress down to business casual.

Purchase a suit that fits you well. If you cannot afford a suit, I would recommend piecing together a suit. I would buy pants, a sports coat, a nice shirt and a tie. If you, like myself enjoy a little flair in your life, a bowtie is an excellent place to be a little different. Do not wear a tie with cartoon characters, holiday themes or sports related. Wear a tie that color coordinates with your suit. If you need help picking one out, take your suit to the store and have someone help you pick out a tie and shirt.

  • Know your size. Get yourself to a local suit store and get properly measured for a shirt. Get measured for pants. Get measured for a suit. Write this information down so when you go shopping either online or in person, you know your sizes. Wearing a suit that fits is important is as it makes you look professional, which is what you are.
  • Build a basic wardrobe. Black, blue, tan and grey are your basic colors for pants. At first I would advise to buy solid colors without stripes or patterns, as they are harder to match. Solid color shirts like white and blue often have a lot of versatility. You can wear a white shirt with almost any tie and a blue shirt with 75% of the ties available for purchase.
  • Buy one pair of black shoes and one black belt as they match well with blue, black or grey.
  • Keep it simple.
  • Cruise sales. I use http://www.dappered.com to locate reasonable deals on fashionable men’s clothing.
  • Have a backup outfit planned. You never know if you are going to spill food on your shirt or have pen explode in your pocket. You also never know if you have to come back for a 2nd interview and you need another new outfit.


What to bring:

  • Portfolio/briefcase/bag.
  • Extra copies of your resume/cv/cover letter.
  • Some examples of your work. A portfolio of what you have accomplished even if it is graduate school projects. It helps you have some visuals.
  • Extra copies of your presentation if you are giving one.
  • Something to snack on.
  • A water bottle
  • A pad of paper and extra pens.


What not to bring

  • All the excess stuff that builds up in your bag/portfolio/notebook. Take 5 minutes to clean your bag out before you go to an interview. You’ll find some stuff you’ve lost and you look neat and organized
  • Snacks that require silverware, that could melt or make a mess.
  • Dead pens, old business cards etc. If it won’t help you in the interview, don’t bring it with you.


These suggestions might seem a little conservative, but I work in a professional hospital and medical school. I typically wear pants and a polo/dress shirt to work every day. I interact with medical professionals on a regular basis and I attempt to dress to the level of people I interact with on a regular basis. I’ve never worn a jacket to work with the exception of my interviews.

It takes time to build up a decent wardrobe and can be accomplished one piece at a time.   Buy things out of season like sweaters in the summer and short sleeve shirts in the winter when they are on clearance. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice at the store or from friends on where they shop for professional clothes.



Dan Trout is a medical librarian at Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester Medical Center. He has been a librarian for 3 years and has previously worked at Rochester Institute of Technology and Syracuse University before he became a medical librarian. Dan obtained his undergraduate degree from SUNY Oswego and his masters in library science from the University of Buffalo. He lives in Rochester NY with his wife Sarah. You can follow Dan on twitter @512dot72

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.